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Why has the number of university applicants dropped sharply this year?

This year, only 7,441 students sat entrance exams at the National University of Laos, of whom 6,688 will be awarded places. This is in sharp contrast to last year, when 11,976 people registered to take entrance exams, of whom 6,990 were accepted. The number of students registering for entrance exams at three other universities also dropped this year.


 Ms Don Nernthavong, a student in Saravan province: Many young people, including myself, would like to continue with studies but in many cases they simply cannot  because their families are poor and can’t afford the fees for higher education. I wanted to be a nurse but my dream ended in secondary school because I have several younger brothers and sisters. During these times of economic hardship, I want to help my parents earn enough money so they can pay for my siblings to get a decent education. It would be good if the government could do more to  help children from poor families.

Mr Souphaxay Nuanthong, a resident of Xieng Khuang province: There are several reasons for the fall in the number of university applicants. More and more people are being awarded scholarships to study in other countries, employment opportunities in Laos are limited, the cost of living here is rising every day, and people earn very low salaries. We are all told that education is important and more people would like to be able to continue to a higher level. But these days everyone is hard up and household budgets do not stretch to include tuition fees. The government should provide more support for poor students, provide them with an allowance and offer more scholarships, as well as providing free accommodation so that more young people can attend university.
Mr But Bounmany, a resident of Xayaboury province: I’m concerned that I can’t pay for my son to attend university, even though he is a good student. But I have many children and we can’t afford to pay for all of them to get a higher education. Some of my neighbours say they spend a lot of money on university fees every year and that it is a costly business. Unfortunately, I have made the decision to stop supporting my son’s education and have asked him to help me with my work.
Mr Phongsavath Chanthavong, a student in Luang Prabang province: It’s not easy to get a place at a university, college or other educational institution, even though the government provides some scholarships. But study at university involves many costs, such as payment for a place in a dormitory or room rental, as well as paying for uniforms, stationery, and food and drink every day. There are also other fees and costs that must be taken into account. Another disincentive is the number of people who graduated from university but remain unemployed. Some people have been volunteer teachers for 5 or 6 years but have still not been given a position as a civil servant. Many of them give up waiting and go to work in neighbouring countries. So I’ve chosen not to continue with my studies. I know education is an important aspect of development but in these times of financial hardship most people are more concerned about having food to eat every day. 
Ms Syamphone, a student in Luang Namtha province: Some of my classmates dropped out of school because their parents couldn’t afford to pay the fees. And lots of people go to work in neighbouring countries as soon as they can. My friends say that by studying for 2-4 years they will lose a lot of money so they decide to get a job instead. I’m lucky that my parents can afford to pay for me to continue my studies. I urge the authorities to provide allowances for poor children, as this would be a great help in ensuring that more people are better educated and can learn useful skills. A more highly educated population would give Laos a better reputation and financial support and encouragement would create a better environment for students.

By Lamphone Pasanthong
(Latest Update August 18, 2023)

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